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Mongolia Vacations: Top Places of Interest

July 15th, 2009

mongolia-vacations.jpgMongolia is a blossoming vacation destination of the East that offers adventure, glorious history, and exciting nightlife. There are many reasons why tourists might want to make Mongolia their next vacation stop. This article by a Constant Content author writing under the pseudonym of “awalls37″ will help you discover the top 7 places of interest in Mongolia, and explore the culinary and cultural treasures that this country has to offer today’s globe trekkers.

A Guide to Mongolia’s Top Vacations

Known as “the land of Blue Sky” and boundless spaces, Mongolia is one of Asia’s best-kept secrets. On your journey to and from the world’s most beautiful places, you may have passed over this gem while traveling through Asia’s most popular countries. For years, Shanghai has attracted shopping lovers, and India has gained the spotlight through national news and film. Tourists know Japan for its geishas and Cambodia for its ancient temples and Buddha statues. However, you’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that Mongolia has everything you could want in a vacation: beautiful scenery, wildlife at its best, historic paths, adventure around every turn, and vibrant nightlife as you’ve never seen it before.

Why Mongolia Should Be Your Next Stop

Mongolia is quite the place of contrasting landscapes, from rolling valleys to snow-white mountain tops to idyllic villages. With such a vast history, the country is a major mystery for aspiring travelers, many of whom are half a world away. Old beliefs may cause some to think of Mongolia as wild, arid desert lands. Or perhaps by comparison with the rest of Asia, it may seem ages behind in accommodating today’s modern globe trotters.

It is a surprising experience of a lifetime that goes far beyond description. Just as its nickname implies, Mongolia receives more than 250 days of sunshine annually. In the summertime, you’ll be met with warm temperatures and soft rainfall. You could find yourself in a million different settings: trekking the vast countryside, indulging in traditions of food and theatre, discovering the values of a simple life from the nomadic tribes, or tracing their rich heritage and ancient relics. A Mongolian travel adventure is full of possibilities. This article will help you realize your travel passions in Mongolia, and take home the unforgettable stories that you’ll be telling your friends for years.

The Top 7 Travel Sites to See in Mongolia

Your Mongolian vacation isn’t complete until you’ve checked these seven places off your must-see list.

Khövsgöl Nuur: Fondly named the “Blue Pearl of Mongolia” by Mongolians and international travelers, this park is the most popular spot for fishing. Undisturbed and non-commercialized, this country continues an ancient tradition of agriculture and livestock breeding. You’ll spot Mongolian wildlife in its natural habitat, such as black storks, argali sheep, ibex, bear, sable, moose, and wolverines.

Darkhad Depression: Along the northern border, the Darkhad Depression resides in a quiet corner behind a wall of mountains, lush forests, and prairie lands. This area is well tucked away by natural barriers for the safety of the Tsaatan people. Also called the “Reindeer Riders”, this unique tribe happily sleeps in huts and raises reindeer in their daily lives. Nearby, the Darkhad tribe is very friendly and hospitable to visitors, welcoming them into their wooden homes.

Otgon Tenger Uul: If you love mountain trekking and magnificent panoramic views, journey to one of Mongolia’s most sacred mountains. For centuries, Mongolians have honored the tradition of worship at Otgon Tenger Uul. Many hikers take a horse or jeep ride from the nearest city, Uliastay, or participate in a guided group tour. It is the only glacier-capped peak of the Khangaii range, and features beautiful lakes and hot springs along the trail.

Amarbayasgalant Khiid: Take a voyage into Mongolia’s grand history at this monastery, which is one of their most significant Buddhist foundations. Lined with a symmetrical and imperial scheme, it is symbolic of the monastery’s great teachings of harmony, wisdom, and meditation. There are nine temples open to tourists, and you can get sweeping views of the surrounding valley on top of the main hall.

Ulaanbaatar: Once you set foot here, you’ll truly understand how Mongolia is a country of great contrasts. While Northern Mongolia has its majestic mountains and valleys, you’ll find that the central region has a vibrant pace, which feels a lot like Europe’s most cosmopolitan cities. As Mongolia’s main social and economic hub, Ulaanbaatar is the best starting point for outdoor excursions and hiking tours.

Karakorum: Explore the ruins of the ancient capital city of the Great Mongolian Empire. Karakorum, or the “City of Black Sand,” was once part of the largest land empire of the known world during the 13th century. Though most of its grandeur lies in ruins, you’ll be able to wander through its impressive monastery and ancient tombs. There are hotels and soothing spas near Karakorum, where you could indulge in some peace and relaxation after sightseeing. If you’re traveling in July, you’ll catch the much-anticipated Naadam Festival, which includes wrestling and other traditional games.

Terelj National Park: Near Ulan Bator, this is the meeting place for cross-country skiers. The Terelj National Park gained international fame from the tenth season of the popular CBS reality TV show, “The Amazing Race.” You can expect to find mounds of white snow and ger camps, which stay open during the cold winter months. Nearby attractions include the Yestii Hot Water Springs and Buddhist monastery that’s open to visitors.

Where Old Tradition Meets Modern Lifestyle

Mongolia is not just for the mountain climber or the ambitious National Geographic journalist. Where the destination offers a retreat to nature and an appeal to old traditions, it has an equal appeal for the modern traveler as well. As you encounter the locals, it may surprise you to find that they hold college degrees, spend their nights in European-style bars, and use cell phones and PDAs. Just like Japan and South Korea, Mongolia is another up-and-coming country in Asia. Not only are they enjoying democracy, they also are embracing the latest in fashion, entertainment, and interesting dining.

On the southeastern border between Mongolia and China, you’ll find a variety of ways to wine, dine, dance, and have a good time. There are a good number of bars, nightclubs, cabarets, cinemas, restaurants, and shops along this region that embrace the excitement of urban cities like Paris, Berlin, or New York City. Mongolians communicate with each other in Russian or their native language; however now, you’ll be pleased that most of them speak English.

Mongolia’s Legendary Hospitality and Culture

A country of extraordinary hospitality that has opened its arms to new travelers, Mongolia is proud of its culinary traditions. Their unique cuisine is influenced by Mongolian and Russian foods, which offers a good balance of locally-grown meats with dumpling, stew, rice, and noodle dishes. Cooked mutton is the pride of rural Mongolia, which is often referred to as buuz in the city limits.

Enter a yurt, one of the nomadic huts found in the countryside, and you’ll always be offered a satisfying meal. Your host will eagerly refill your empty bowl every time, and for dessert, enjoy the sweetness of boortsog, a traditional fried cookie eaten with sugar or honey. There are a number of tour operators offering unique opportunities to take an authentic cooking class with a local chef, or stay with a hosting family and sample a variety of Mongolia’s most common foods each day.

Mongolia is a journey of a lifetime, where everything you once assumed about this ancient country will be gone after your first day. Take in the magnificent sights, sounds, and delectable tastes during your trip, and you’ll find the magical moments that every vacation should have. Whether you’re an outdoor adventurer or desire to become a part of Mongolia’s fascinating culture, you’ll leave a rejuvenated and changed person.

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